The Hidden Costs Of Dating

You’ve got enough cash to cover dinner and a movie this Friday — but are there other, less obvious expenses that you may not have accounted for? Here, we reveal three surprising hidden dating costs.

By Laura Schaefer

ating can be a joy and it can be a pain — but could it also be an investment? Many people eyeing up the expense of a night out are starting to think of it that way. Dating isn’t ever completely free, and in the age of the Great Recession, many folks are wincing before they sign on for all the expenses associated with the stereotypical dinner-and-a-movie routine.

But beyond the actual cost of the dinner bill, movie tickets or entry fee that gets you into that swank new jazz lounge, we wanted to find out what the hidden costs of dating might be… those
Those intangible expenses are a bit less obvious.
intangible expenses that are a bit less obvious. Did you ever think you might give up a good friend (or two) when you meet someone special? Did you count on spending more money on clothes, transportation, or flowers? And how many of your own precious minutes, hours, or even days are you spending looking for Mr. or Ms. Right? Read on to tally up the not-so-obvious costs involved in the dating process.

Hidden cost #1: Friendships
Have you ever been ditched by a good friend when he or she gets involved with a new love interest? You’re not imagining it; people lose friends when their close comrades enter into new romantic relationships. According to Professor Robin Dunbar of the University of Oxford, most people have five friends they consider to be part of their “inner circle.”
According to the Society of American Florists, the average American spends $25 per year on flowers. According to the National Retail Federation, men spend an average of $163.37 on gifts for Valentine’s Day, while the average woman spends $84.72. According to The Knot, the average cost of an engagement ring these days is $4,225.
But when someone enters into a new romantic relationship, this number drops down to just four. And since one of the four included in the “inner circle” is the person’s new romantic partner, that means that two people out of that formerly close group of friends has gotten the heave-ho.

The study, which was based on a questionnaire answered by 540 respondents, attributes the shift in friendships to the amount of time that’s required to become invested with each other in building a new romance. However, there’s some good news in this equation, too (with the key word here being “new”): according to Professor Dunbar, “as focus wanes — and the relationship requires a less heavy investment of time and energy to make it work (i.e., everything is running smoothly) — then you can rebuild [the number within your inner circle] to five.”

Hidden cost #2: Time
There’s no way around it; dating, as a process, takes time. According to a recent poll done by with 2,173 respondents, women said that they spent an average of 2049 GPB (a little over $3,000) and went on 24 dates before finding someone they wanted to settle down with. Leighann Kinter, 24, an actuarial consultant in New York City, notes that time is a major factor when it comes to calculating the true cost of dating. “In taking the time to seek out and go on dates, you are inevitably giving up valuable time that could be spent doing other productive things, such as going the extra mile at work, spending time with friends and family, or strengthening existing relationships. While I’ve never felt the need to stop dating because of the explicit financial costs, I’ve certainly pushed off
It’s more authentic, less expensive and keeps me relaxed.
dating at times because of the time it would take.”

In the United States, daters typically spend anywhere from six months to a year before meeting someone special. According to an It’s Just Lunch survey of 38,912 singles, 52 percent of respondents feel that they are too busy to date. But let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that you aren’t too busy to date and you do make time for it in your schedule. Ian Stancyck at figured that the average American dater makes roughly $30 per hour while working. Therefore, if a date takes about four hours, that’s a “lost earning opportunity” cost of approximately $120. And that’s before you’ve decided whether to split the bill or pick up the check this time!

(Not-so-hidden) cost #3: The difference in average dating costs by area
When it comes to dating, the city you live in also has a major impact on how much you’ll spend overall. According to a survey conducted by, their cost-of-dating index covering 14 major American cities puts New York City at the top of the list. Dinner and a movie in Gotham runs approximately $135, while dinner and tickets to a basketball game will set you back $338. “Dating in NYC is pretty competitive,” agrees Evans Longacre, 35, a consultant. “The girls have all been wined and dined, and if you can’t hold their attention, someone else will. However, some of the best dates in the city are actually almost free. Nothing beats wandering through the East Village or a sunset walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.” Or, if you’d like to give your wallet a permanent break, try going out in Portland, OR, where dinner and a movie costs just $82 — and dinner and a basketball game goes for the bargain price of $145.

With the right attitude and a little creativity, however, the cash burden of going on dates doesn’t have to be so onerous. Glenn Gasner, 36, a property manager in Tampa, FL, estimates he spends about $300 per month on dates. “It’s almost all dinners, desserts, canoe rentals, miniature golf, movie tickets, park entrance fees, and bar tabs. I don’t take a girl to any place that I wouldn’t go with my best guy friends. It’s more authentic, less expensive and keeps me relaxed, because I’m in my home environment while we’re getting to know each other.”

How to balance your dating budget
Online dating sites, including, have seen a spike in memberships since the beginning of the most recent recession. More people are looking to meet someone special — with whom they can be exclusive — than they were in more flush economic times of the past. Given everyone’s cozy attitude and desire for a real connection these days, dates don’t have to break the bank. A cup of coffee is still (for the time being) under $5 in many locations, and long walks somewhere scenic are free. So if you’re looking for a low debt-to-dating ratio, get creative by choosing fun activities to do on dates that don’t involve concert tickets or four-course meals.

Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls and the forthcoming novel, The Secret Ingredient. She lives in Wisconsin, where dating is quite affordable (hooray!).
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